The MS Thesis... what is all this about? The thesis is a document which describes the research and results of your work. Your thesis topic is decided on in consultation and approval by your Major Advisor. All details regarding the thesis are to worked out by your advisor and your committee.
What is a thesis?
A thesis is a contribution to the body of knowledge. It is a written work which adds to the knowledge in some field. A thesis is not just documentation of work. It is not a project description. The content of the thesis must be new in some sense. It may use some existing elements, but the way they are used together must be new. Although there are no length requirements, a thesis is an expository document. It discusses all aspect of the problem. It presents a solution (or concept or ...) in detail and educates the reader. Assertions must be referenced or supported. Ample examples or data sets are often necessary to support the work. Except for fields like Mathematics which is extraordinarily dense, a masters thesis will take at least 75 pages up to a couple hundred to present the problem, data, code, solution and bibliography (the details of content are left to the graduate committee).
Students must provide their advisor with a project proposal document. This document will describe the proposed thesis research, thesis title and goals of the research. It is required that this document is signed off prior to any work done. Note that it is impossible to predict the course of thesis research and the details of the research will change. Significant changes need to be documented and signed in a revision of the proposal.
The details of the thesis are up to the advisor and graduate committee. There are some common elements that should appear in your thesis.
- Front matter. This is the title page, signature page, table of contents, table of figures, abstract, dedication, etc.
- Introduction. Your thesis is a complete document. It is like a book. You are writing this for more than just the graduate committee. It is expected that individuals in hte field, not just the subspecialization, can read and understand the contents. So again, your audience is more than just your advisor. You must completely describe the problem to be solved. You must present terminology (jargon) that is common including if necessary a table of symbols. A complete survey of the field surrounding the problem is required. Without a literature survey, you don't know if you have actually contributed to the field. Not knowing about existing work is not an excuse for duplicating a known solution and you risk having your thesis rejected.
- Background/Existing work. This may have been placed in the introduction or have a separate chapter. This is a matter of style.
- Your contribution. The next few chapters outline your solution. It may require data collection, data analysis, models etc.
- Results. A separate chapter is a matter of style, but you need to clearly state your results - what is your contribution.
- Future work. Present where the research leads. What are the open questions. What issues arose that you could address to extend your work. How can you get another student started where you left off.
- Bibiolography. An extensive literature survey is documented here. This part is as important as the others and normally is many pages.
A thesis is done when the advisor (major professor) states it is done and the committee signs off. Once the committee is happy with the draft, the student may schedule a thesis defense. This is a public presentation and defense of the work. Upon a successful defense, the student may have edits or formatting changes suggested during the defense to address, but then will send the document to graduate school so that the thesis editor will verify formatting consistency. Once this is done, the thesis is ready to be archived in the Graduate School. Physical copies are required for the department, library and advisor.
- Do the research and write the document.
- Hint: kick off the work on a thesis with a proposal session. This is where you outline the idea of the project, a tentative outline of your planned work along with benchmarks. The best suggestion is to gather the committee and get everyone on the same page, but you can meet individually with each committee member. It is likely plans will change, but it is good to get an idea of expectations at the start.
- Defend. (Scheduling form available from Graduate Education office PL113)
- Hint: meet with each of your committee members before your defense. This will enable you to get more feedback and you will be better prepared for your defense.
- Your thesis must be defended and approved by your committee as of the date listed in the Graduate Education deadlines, which can be found on the website and in the Graduate office. (This date allows you enough time to make the remaining thesis/dissertation changes-format and grammar check, any other corrections you may need to make, and the final printing and binding.)
- Make whatever corrections/revisions your committee requires.
- Hint: give yourself time to make corrections. It is very common to have corrections and you are not DONE until everything is finished and approved (including any and all corrections).
- Print thesis on plain paper; print signature page on required archive paper; obtain all signatures except the Dean of Graduate Education’s signature.
- Take thesis (with signature page) to the Business Services Office (O’Harra room 106) for format approval and “pink sheet” signature.
- Deliver thesis (with evidence of format approval on pink sheet) to the Graduate Education office (PL113) to be reviewed for grammatical corrections by a faculty member approved by our office. This is due no later than 3 weeks before graduation. Check the due dates listed on the Graduate Education Website and in the Grad office.
- You will be contacted when thesis has been proofed and asked to pick it up in PL113, make corrections, store on 2 CD’s, and print on required archive paper.
- Return the marked copy, one CD, and the final copy on archive paper to the Graduate Education office for final review, approval, and the Dean’s signature.
- You will be notified by email when the Dean has signed the thesis, and you can pick it up.
- Deliver the final, master copy and one CD to the Business Services Office (OH 106), pay for the printing and binding, and get the final signature on the pink sheet.
- Return the pink sheet to the Graduate Education office in PL113.
- When the thesis has been printed and bound, the Business Services Office will take care of distribution of all copies.
- Please plan ahead. We must have the completed product and the signed pink sheet submitted to the Graduate Education office before your diploma will be released.
An SDSMT Latex Thesis template is available to get you started with the process.
Linux: sdsmt thesis template file
This download is will give you a *.tar.gz file. The command tar -xzf <the name you used>.tar.gz will untar and unzip. You will then get a folder.